2019 Alaska Bison Hunt - Start date November 2nd

npaden

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It's been a while since I did a live hunt type post but thought this one would be a good candidate. At .27% drawing odds it's not like me posting details on this hunt is going to skew the future drawing results for this tag.

This started back in December with the Alaska draw deadline. I had a Alaska hunting license already from hunting black bears on Prince of Wales that spring so it didn't cost me anything but the application fees to apply for some draw tags. I shot for the moon and I think the best odds of any tag I applied for was just barely over 1%. I didn't think much about it and usually I'm checking the results clicking refresh on my computer waiting for them to post but I think I even forgot to check the day they came out and didn't check until the next day.

When I saw that I drew a tag I knew that it was going to be a good tag, but when I saw the hunt code I wasn't even sure what species it was for! For the most part Alaska has the species of animal in the 2nd space in the hunt code i.e. DC = Caribou, DM = Moose, DS = Sheep, etc. I drew DI403 what the heck did I apply for again? Looking it up it turns out it was Bison. I guess the I is the 2nd letter in Bison since Bear already was used for DB. Turns out I drew a bison tag!

After the initial thrill of drawing the tag, I started looking into the logistics, timing, etc. that was going to be involved. The reason this hunt is such a hard to draw tag is that it is accessible from the road system in Alaska which is fairly rare up there. Most of the 15,000+ people that applied for the 45 tags were residents. So that part of it was looking fairly doable. Still some logistics to sort through on airfare, etc. but they do a thing where they stagger the start dates for the hunters so that each week 5 hunters get the green light to start hunting, then 5 more, then 5 more, etc. The official start date is October 1st but then you are assigned your individual start date sometime in May. So I found out I drew the tag in mid February but wasn't going to find out when I could start hunting and book my flights, etc. until May. Turned into kind of a waiting game.

I scoured the internet looking for information on the hunt. Looking at harvest %, it didn't seem to be a 100% sure thing. In 2016 only 51% of the hunters were successful. In 2017 that jumped up to 85%. 2018 results weren't available yet when I started my research but are now showing an 80% success rate. There was a whopping 1 nonresident hunter in 2016, 0 nonresident hunters in 2017 and 2 nonresident hunters in 2018. Looks like I'm in pretty rare company as a nonresident with this tag!

Okay, I'm rambling around and getting sidetracked. I post on Social Media that I drew the tag and one of my next door neighbors from when I grew up in a tiny unincorporated town in Montana currently lives in Anchorage and just went on this exact hunt with his nephew in 2017. He almost seemed as excited about me drawing the tag as I was. When I finally got my start date of November 2nd he applied for a week of vacation and said he was going with me. He had already been involved with figuring out the legwork in 2017 with his nephew (who is in his mid 30's, not a kid) and we quickly put a plan together.

Delta Junction is one of the few places in Alaska with a decent amount of private property. There are farmers and ranchers along the valley that own several thousand acres of property. He said you could be expected to pay anywhere from $100 to $10,000 for trespass fees depending on who you were dealing with. (There are actually some high fenced Bison ranching operations in the area that sell Bison hunts on their private property). They had talked with several people in 2017 and actually paid some trespass fees on a few different properties but in the end had found a place at the end of the road that was reasonably priced and had a decent number of Bison on it. They also give you exclusive access to their property for the period you book with them. They charge $500 for 5 days exclusive access, but if you don't connect you are welcome back anytime that someone else doesn't have it booked for no additional charge. It seemed fairly reasonable to me. The way that the access is to the public land it would almost require you to pay the trespass fee just to cross their land anyway so I thought it wasn't too bad of a deal. The other promising thing was that since they are at the end of the road, if the bison are moving onto public land I would be able to access them although that would make things a bit more difficult from a pack out perspective.

I've booked my flights, bought my locking tag, booked a cabin along the highway not too far from where I will be hunting and think I have everything pretty much ready to go. My old next door neighbor has me covered on a vehicle, a place to stay in Anchorage, and says that he has a good setup in his garage that if I tag out soon enough we can fully process the bison there and get it all packaged up and ready to go home with me. I will be even using his rifle so I don't have to pack one there and back.

I've been in touch with another hunt talk member that helped out on this hunt earlier this spring (the season is October 1st to March 31st) and it was crazy that completely independently they had ended up staying at the same cabin rental place and hunting the same piece of private property that I am booked on.

I've watched what few videos on the Delta hunt that I could find on YouTube. Some make it almost seem more like a shoot than a hunt, with guys stalking around farm equipment. Some make it seem like a pretty decent hunt. Weather is shaping up to be fairly reasonable in the long term forecast, low 20's and upper teens for highs, low teens and upper single digits for lows. Nothing with a minus sign in front of it so far so that seems good.

I've been wanting to start this thread for a while but have been holding off until I got a bit closer to the actual start date. I fly out on Halloween so that is right at a week from now. I will do my best to take as many pictures as possible and maybe even try to get a few videos, but no guarantees on that. I never seem to do very well at getting videos.

I may update this one more time before I leave and then will try to get it updated regularly as I go. I'm not sure if the cabin that I'll be staying at has WiFi or what kind of cellular service I will get up there. If anyone has any questions I will try to get them answered.

Hopefully this will be a fun trip and I will share it with everyone to the best of my ability.

Thanks for tagging along...

Nathan
 

npaden

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A couple other things that I am interested in while I am there would be seeing a good display of the Northern Lights and the very offhand chance of finding a wolf.

Turns out it looks like today would be the perfect time for the Northern Lights based on this forecast model - https://www.gi.alaska.edu/monitors/aurora-forecast

It isn't looking too good for the time I'm going to be there in their long term forecast for the Northern Lights. Looks like maybe some average low level stuff is a possibility but probably nothing too spectacular like the HuntTalk crew got to witness on their British Columbia Moose/Caribou hunt earlier this fall.

Growing up in Northeast Montana I did get to see some good Northern Lights growing up, even one time seeing several colors with pink and purple along with the green but I haven't seen them in probably 30+ years so that would be pretty cool if I get to see them even if they are just average. Looks like I should have a chance at least.

Wolf hunting also is most likely going to be hit or miss. For the price of the $60 locking tag I think I will have one in my pocket, but it sounds like it isn't something that would be much of a certainty. They will either be around or they won't. Sounds like tracking down and finding them may not be in the plans based on my discussion with my old neighbor from up there.
 

Mtnhuntr

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812
That is so cool! I'm sure the connections with your old neighbor and the other hunttalker will be invaluable. Good luck and excited to follow along!

P.S. Is this the same hunt as Rinella's bison hunt?
 

npaden

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Lubbock, Texas
That is so cool! I'm sure the connections with your old neighbor and the other hunttalker will be invaluable. Good luck and excited to follow along!
It will be interesting getting to know my old neighbor. He is 7 years older than me and the same age as one of my older brothers. We moved into town when I was in the 6th grade and he would have just graduated from High School so it's not like I really knew him very well. He was very good friends with my brother though. He seems to be an accomplished hunter, he has shot several moose, bears, and a dall sheep last year on a backpack hunt. It's kind of odd using someone else's rifle, but it sure makes sense not to have to haul one up there and back.

He says he actually prefers moose meat to bison so didn't seem like he was that interested in splitting the meat up or anything, I think his nephew who shot the bison in 2017 may take some of it though. I have about a dozen people here that have volunteered to help me get it eaten as well.

P.S. Is this the same hunt as Rinella's bison hunt?
Not even close. This one should be a cake walk compared to that hunt. That's why the draw odds are so low for this hunt.
 

rmyoung1

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Really, really cool, Nathan. Congratulations. I look forward to hearing about it.
 

npaden

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Really, really cool, Nathan. Congratulations. I look forward to hearing about it.
I am hoping it isn't too cool! ;)

Going into this I was worried it could be way into the minus temperatures. It is really looking similar to a lot of weather I've hunted in November in Montana growing up.
 

npaden

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Lubbock, Texas
One thing that has been a nice surprise is how much this hunt is going to cost. I don't think I even looked at how much the locking tag for a nonresident bison tag cost was before I applied. Thankfully that was the most surprising number out of all the costs, only $900. Add the required $160 hunting license and the cost of the tag plus license is a whopping $1,060. That's cheaper than a nonresident elk tag in several states and several thousand cheaper than a bison tag in Wyoming ($4,402) or Arizona ($5,400). Utah bison tags aren't too bad at $1,518, but I do think the Alaska tag is the cheapest bison tag around.

I booked my flights as soon as I found out my dates in May so I think I was able to get a pretty good deal on them. I actually ended up booking 2 one way flights and that was actually the cheapest option. I'm flying up there on United that had really good connections and it was only $304. Coming home I'm flying Alaska Airlines as much for the baggage allowances as anything and that flight has decent connections and flight was $307. So $611 round trip to Anchorage from Lubbock. Seemed like a pretty good deal to me.

As mentioned in the initial post, the trespass fee is $500. This will be a first ever for me to pay a trespass fee, but it really sounds like the way to go. It really seems like a trespass fee and not an outrageous gouging for a place to hunt exclusively for 5 days. It also sounds like this place generally has bison on or around it and the folks are VERY nice. I ended up spending about an hour talking to the lady that I called to book it and she seems to know a lot about the bison and their habits and wants us to check in with them the day before the hunt. She keeps tabs on what the bison have been doing and they have connections with their neighbors and in the unlikely event that there aren't any bison on their property when the season rolls around she thinks she could get me to a place where they are at.

We are staying at a little place called the Silver Fox Roadhouse that is on the Alaska Highway east of Delta Junction, actually closer to where the bison hunting is. It is $100 per night but you have to reserve the number of nights you think you will need and it sounds pretty iffy whether you get any credit for checking out early if you punch your tag early. Still, that doesn't seem like a bad price at all for Alaska. Maybe if we see some wolf sign we may spend a couple extra days there looking for a wolf.

So right now my out of pocket is going to be sitting around $2,800 (I booked 6 nights at the Silver Fox just to be sure). Flying meat home is going to run me about $1 per pound so I'm budgeting about $500 for that counting the skull and hide. That would get me to $3,300. I'll have some extra costs for buying coolers to ship the meat home, groceries while I'm up there, etc. but it sure looks like this entire trip will be less than the tag price in either Wyoming or Arizona.

Right now I'm planning on a euro mount of the skull and a full hide tan from Moyle's Tannery in Idaho. The full tan with head is $636.50 but I imagine I will be spending some $ sending it there and back. If I do the euro I will be doing it myself, I've been fattening my beetles up on hot dogs lately and hopefully they will have a big appetite by mid November.

I did check with my local taxidermist on a shoulder mount and he quoted me $1,400 which sounds reasonable. I can't decide what it would take to get me to do a shoulder mount. If it is a B&C bull? I don't know. Up until a couple months ago I swore I would never have a bison shoulder mount in my house and then I saw one that was very well done and looked great. It was still HUGE, but it looked really good. I had only seen flea market and pawn shop type bison mounts before and they were hideously ugly. So I'm still on the fence on my taxidermy options. I will need to decide before I start skinning as a shoulder mount would preferably be dorsal skinned and a full body tanned hide would be belly skinned.

I laugh when some folks type up a few paragraphs and apologize for typing up a novel. I actually do type up a novel!
 

Mtnhuntr

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Joined
Sep 26, 2017
Messages
812
One thing that has been a nice surprise is how much this hunt is going to cost. I don't think I even looked at how much the locking tag for a nonresident bison tag cost was before I applied. Thankfully that was the most surprising number out of all the costs, only $900. Add the required $160 hunting license and the cost of the tag plus license is a whopping $1,060. That's cheaper than a nonresident elk tag in several states and several thousand cheaper than a bison tag in Wyoming ($4,402) or Arizona ($5,400). Utah bison tags aren't too bad at $1,518, but I do think the Alaska tag is the cheapest bison tag around.

I booked my flights as soon as I found out my dates in May so I think I was able to get a pretty good deal on them. I actually ended up booking 2 one way flights and that was actually the cheapest option. I'm flying up there on United that had really good connections and it was only $304. Coming home I'm flying Alaska Airlines as much for the baggage allowances as anything and that flight has decent connections and flight was $307. So $611 round trip to Anchorage from Lubbock. Seemed like a pretty good deal to me.

As mentioned in the initial post, the trespass fee is $500. This will be a first ever for me to pay a trespass fee, but it really sounds like the way to go. It really seems like a trespass fee and not an outrageous gouging for a place to hunt exclusively for 5 days. It also sounds like this place generally has bison on or around it and the folks are VERY nice. I ended up spending about an hour talking to the lady that I called to book it and she seems to know a lot about the bison and their habits and wants us to check in with them the day before the hunt. She keeps tabs on what the bison have been doing and they have connections with their neighbors and in the unlikely event that there aren't any bison on their property when the season rolls around she thinks she could get me to a place where they are at.

We are staying at a little place called the Silver Fox Roadhouse that is on the Alaska Highway east of Delta Junction, actually closer to where the bison hunting is. It is $100 per night but you have to reserve the number of nights you think you will need and it sounds pretty iffy whether you get any credit for checking out early if you punch your tag early. Still, that doesn't seem like a bad price at all for Alaska. Maybe if we see some wolf sign we may spend a couple extra days there looking for a wolf.

So right now my out of pocket is going to be sitting around $2,800 (I booked 6 nights at the Silver Fox just to be sure). Flying meat home is going to run me about $1 per pound so I'm budgeting about $500 for that counting the skull and hide. That would get me to $3,300. I'll have some extra costs for buying coolers to ship the meat home, groceries while I'm up there, etc. but it sure looks like this entire trip will be less than the tag price in either Wyoming or Arizona.

Right now I'm planning on a euro mount of the skull and a full hide tan from Moyle's Tannery in Idaho. The full tan with head is $636.50 but I imagine I will be spending some $ sending it there and back. If I do the euro I will be doing it myself, I've been fattening my beetles up on hot dogs lately and hopefully they will have a big appetite by mid November.

I did check with my local taxidermist on a shoulder mount and he quoted me $1,400 which sounds reasonable. I can't decide what it would take to get me to do a shoulder mount. If it is a B&C bull? I don't know. Up until a couple months ago I swore I would never have a bison shoulder mount in my house and then I saw one that was very well done and looked great. It was still HUGE, but it looked really good. I had only seen flea market and pawn shop type bison mounts before and they were hideously ugly. So I'm still on the fence on my taxidermy options. I will need to decide before I start skinning as a shoulder mount would preferably be dorsal skinned and a full body tanned hide would be belly skinned.

I laugh when some folks type up a few paragraphs and apologize for typing up a novel. I actually do type up a novel!
That is super reasonable for a free range bison hunt. Tough choice on the mount. I ended up doing a shoulder mount and had them cast the horns so I could do a european as well. I think you get the best of both worlds that way but it's not cheap either and you don't get a robe/rug.

 

wllm1313

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I laugh when some folks type up a few paragraphs and apologize for typing up a novel. I actually do type up a novel!
Yeah well I like reading your novels a whole lot more than most folks paragraphs.
How far will you likely have to pack the animal?
 

npaden

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Lubbock, Texas
That is super reasonable for a free range bison hunt. Tough choice on the mount. I ended up doing a shoulder mount and had them cast the horns so I could do a european as well. I think you get the best of both worlds that way but it's not cheap either and you don't get a robe/rug.

Yeah, yours was one of the mounts that got me started thinking about actually having a shoulder mount done. The other was believe it or not in a convenience store in Benjamin, Texas this fall. It was a gorgeous mount. I'm thinking the hair on a Bison in Alaska this time of year is probably pretty thick for either a robe or a shoulder mount.

Price really isn't the issue, it's the size of the shoulder mount and not getting the full robe. I will probably still be debating on the choice as I walk up the the animal if I'm successful.
 

npaden

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Yeah well I like reading your novels a whole lot more than most folks paragraphs.
How far will you likely have to pack the animal?
LOL. I pretty much type like I talk. Hopefully it comes across as understandable at least.

How far we will have to pack it depends entirely on where we end up finding them and how far it ends up running off after the shot. It seems that a lot of the time they are able to drive right up to them in a vehicle. They are pretty specific about what parts of the carcass you can and can't leave in the hay field if that's where it ends up.

I'm not thinking this is going to be some grueling extreme conditioning hunt. I imagine breaking the animal down is going to be about the most physically demanding part of the entire hunt.
 

kansasdad

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Wichita
Looking forward to the whole adventure.

May I suggest you listen to some wolf howling tapes/videos and practice mimicking their calls. I hope you get your bison early in your stay and get to turn your attention to reducing the wolf population.
 
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